The Royal Wedding has led to a new round of debate about Republicanism in Australia, particularly since the Queen somehow managed to ban a particular comedy group from providing satirical coverage of the wedding on the state broadcaster[1]. The debate was reflected last week in a panel presentation on the state broadcaster’s current affairs TV show, Q and A, and this can be viewed on the internet.

I thought I’d provide a link to this debate here for my non-Australian readers, because it’s a good example of the quality and style of political debate in Australia: robust but polite, with good use of the English language and, in general, direct and clear statements of opinion. There’s not a great deal of waffle, there’s good humour all round, and a lot of “piss-taking.” American readers may be interested in the Australian view of American republicanism (a “tragedy” according to one panel member) and British readers may be interested in the nuanced view of the monarchy held by the panelists. The strength of debate within the political class is also on display here : two panelists, Nick Minchin and Amanda Vanstone, are from the same political party (the conservative party, aptly called the “Liberals” in Australia), but they disagree vehemently over the issue of whether Australia should become a republic. Bob Carr, the representative of the “left” party, the Australian Labour Party, is actually an expert in American history (I think he has a PhD though I could be wrong), and although republicanism in Australia is often associated with the left of politics, he is decidedly equivocal about the whole thing. The strongest advocate of a republic is Craig Reucassel, who is from the comedy team who were banned by the Queen. There’s also an example of their work in the show, which American viewers might be interested in – would this sort of thing be played on your public broadcaster? And rest assured, this is mild compared to some of the other stuff this team were going to do (and have done in the past). Even Marcia Langton, an Aboriginal activist, is equivocal about the future of republicanism, and respectful of the Queen, though this doesn’t stop her appearing on a panel show with a comedian who wanted to present a skit about the consummation of the wedding vows…

The other noticeable trend in this debate is the importance of “modern” Australian issues. Bob Carr is “more passionate about saving red gums” than the republic; questions from the audience target the role of migrants in shaping republican debate (our current PM is a migrant, as is the leader of the opposition). Reconciliation and the attitude of Aborigines towards the crown is also reflected, with the presenter asking Marcia Langton the thorny question, “how do you think Aborigines should view the Queen, given she is the leader of the nation that invaded your country?” (Well answered, too). Modern Australia has certainly changed a lot since the constitutional crises of 1975…

It’s a long show, but if you’re interested in seeing how Australians approach each other and their leaders, I recommend viewing the whole thing.

fn1: she did it through application of contract law, not the repressive apparatus of the British state, but still this isn’t a good message to send to one’s loyal subjects…

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